Thanks to their excellent controls, precise jumps and unique gameplay mechanics, Mario games are incredibly popular within the speedrunning community.
By Tom Bowen
Published 15 hours ago
When it comes to video game mascots, few are as iconic or as beloved as Mario. The Italian plumber celebrated his 35th birthday last year, although despite his advancing years, he doesn’t?seem to be showing any signs of slowing down just yet. In fact, if Super Mario Odyssey is anything to go by, he may still just be warming up. Each new Mario game seems to be more fast-paced than the ones?that?preceded it, which has helped to make them firm favorites among members of the speedrunning community.
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While Mario’s former rival Sonic had long been considered to be the speedier of the pair, the pace?at?which the moustached hero is able to tear through stages really isn’t too far behind these days. What’s more, his games typically control with a level of fluidity and precision that is rarely found in other platformers, allowing skilled players to demonstrate their abilities without having to worry about luck or overcompensating for floaty or unresponsive controls.
Those who have played Super Mario Bros. 3 before?should already know just how important the P-Meter can be when it comes to keeping Mario moving at a healthy pace. It doesn’t just impact how fast Mario can travel on foot either, but also whether or not he is able to fly after picking up a Super Leaf or the Tanooki Suit. As a result, managing and maintaining P-Speed is vital for those hoping to speedrun the game.
This makes the title somewhat unique when compared to some of the previous and more recent Mario games as it?demands a level of skill that not everybody will be able to acquire. For those?who are, however, it can provide an experience that is both challenging and enjoyable. Better still, an Any% run of the game can be completed in just over three minutes, making it one of the fastest Mario titles of all time.
Completing Super Mario Galaxy is not something that can be done particularly quickly, with even the fastest Any% runs coming in at around the 150 minute mark. The gravity-based physics can be incredibly demanding too, particularly when one slip of the finger can add a few minutes on to, or, in some cases, completely ruin, a player’s run. Despite all of this though, it’s still a great game to speedrun.
Considered by many to be one of the very best Mario games of all time, Galaxy builds upon the foundations laid by previous 3D Mario titles like 64 and Sunshine to provide an intuitive and enjoyable experience. Most importantly, perhaps, it’s a lot of fun to play; something which can be very important given how many hours of playtime it can take to become good enough to challenge for the top spots on the game’s speedrunning leaderboards.
As the years have passed since their releases, players have discovered all sorts of skips and shortcuts in Mario Kart titles. Some simply enable racers to shave a second or two off of their lap times, but there are others that allow them to skip out entire sections of the track if executed correctly. In the speedrunning community, these skips are known as Ultra-Shortcuts and no game has more of them than Mario Kart Wii.
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Pulling them off can be incredibly challenging, but the rewards for doing so are definitely worth it. Wit the help of Ultra-Shortcuts, the most skilled players are able to complete entire races in just a matter of seconds, making this a great game for technically minded runners. That’s not to say that there aren’t leaderboards for skipless runs too though, so those just wanting to prove their racing prowess are able to do so as well.
Mario’s multi-purpose water pack F.L.U.D.D. can be a little annoying at times, but it also completely changes the way that players control the Italian plumber in Super Mario Sunshine. Being able to hover over large gaps or propel Mario high into the air allows players to approach stages in a variety of ways, which in turn has helped speedrunners to figure out?new and exciting ways to complete both individual stages and the entire game itself in record-breaking times.
An Any% run can be completed in less than 75 minutes, while a handful of players have managed to collect all 120 shines in under three hours. For those looking for a real challenge, there’s even a leaderboard for hoverless runs, although it’s nowhere near as competitive as the two aforementioned categories. Whatever players are looking for though, they should be able to find on the Isle Delfino.
Thanks to an incredibly complicated glitch known as?the Credits Warp, it’s possible to complete Super Mario World in just over 41 seconds. Most speedrunners tend to focus their efforts on more traditional types of run though, with the All Castles category typically receiving the most submissions. By comparison, the thirty five minutes or so?that it can take to complete such a run may seem long, but?it’s arguably a?much better option for those just getting into speedrunning.
While there is undoubtedly a lot of skill and precision required to memorize and execute the inputs needed for the Credits Warp glitch, the best that anybody could really hope?to achieve is shaving off a few hundredths of a second from the current record. Conversely, the seven fastest times in the All Castles category were all submitted in the last year or so. This goes to show that there is still room for improvement, with a sub 34 minute time the next big challenge for the community.
Ever since the introduction of the long and triple jumps in Super Mario 64, movement in 3D Mario games has been both fast and fluid. The introduction of Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey took this to?a whole new level though, with the Italian plumber’s first Switch title arguably being the most fast-paced Mario game to date. Of course, it?definitely helps that it is also the most recent mainline Mario title too.
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There’s a highly active and hugely competitive community of runners for the main game, with many able to complete an Any% run in under 60 minutes. There are also individual leaderboards for each kingdom, not to mention the Luigi’s Balloon World update, which effectively serves as a mini point-to-point speedrun challenge in its own right. Due to the game’s age, there’s still plenty of room for run optimization too and newer runners may well be the ones to spearhead this endeavor.
The Super Mario Maker games serve as something of a one-stop shop for Mario fans.?From Kaizo courses to one-screen puzzles, they offer a little bit of everything, including a healthy dose of speedrunning stages. Granted, not all of them are up to scratch and there are no real leaderboards outside of the games for the most part, but the creativity on display and the enjoyment?that can be found in?some of the?more creative courses really is second to none.
Anybody looking to get a taste of what the games have to offer from a speedrunning perspective would do well to check out some of the archive footage from some of the past few Games Done Quick events. The courses that are run there are typically some of the very best?that the games have to offer and are often just as enjoyable to watch as they are to play due to how fluid and fast-paced the gameplay is.
The top spots on the speedrunning leaderboards for all?of the Mario Kart games are fiercely contested, but none more so than the ones for Mario Kart 64. For years, a group of elite players has driven each track’s fastest lap time down to insanely impressive lows and a 2020 video by YouTuber and speedrunning enthusiast Summoning Salt has only intensified the competition to bring?those times down further still.
One of the things that makes the kart racer so enjoyable to run is that players can choose to focus on just?one or two tracks rather than having to learn and memorize strategies for all 16. They’ll need to grind pretty hard to make a dent in the leaderboards, but with new strategies and techniques still being discovered on a fairly regular basis, there are definitely still further optimizations and improvements to be made.
Although Mario had appeared in a few arcade and handheld titles beforehand, it was not until the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Mario Bros. that the Italian plumber starter to become a household name. Some of the Mario games that have released since then have been far more impressive, but few are as well-suited to speedrunning as this?classic 2D platformer.
Many runners have been able to achieve?sub five minute times in the Any% category, while the world record time for a warpless run finally dropped below the 19 minute mark for the first time back in late 2019. Times like these will likely be far beyond most players, but a sub ten minute Any% run is a realistic target even for beginners, with more than 1,250 runners having managed to achieve the feat over the last four or five years.
Super Mario 64 played a hugely important role in the popularization of speedrunning back in the early two thousands and still boasts an incredibly active community to this day. There are five main categories, with the 16 star run perhaps being the ideal starting place for beginners. It can be completed in under half an hour with a little bit of practice and only requires a couple of easy to learn skips and glitches to pull off.
Those looking to really push themselves might prefer to take on the 120 star run instead, although?should?be prepared to invest five or six hours into each attempt when they’re first starting out. The very best players are able to consistently achieve sub two hour times, but the kind of skill and precision required to do so can take hundreds, if not thousands of hours of playtime to accrue.
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About The Author
(389 Articles Published)
Tom loves classic adventure games and RPGs above all else, but is also partial to a spot of FIFA from time to time. He typically writes about 80s movies, 90s video games and post 2000 television shows; although he’s happy to cover just about anything providing that it has some depth to it.
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